A group of House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont, want the Biden administration to explain why it is promoting atheism and humanism overseas.
In a letter last week to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, expressed “grave concern that the State Department is using appropriated funds to support atheism and radical, progressive orthodoxy across the world.”
The idea stems from a grant program announced in April 2021. The official title of the initiative identified funding opportunities to promote and defend “religious freedom,” which as the Biden administration sees it includes “atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals.”
Recipient groups could qualify for up to $500,000 to advocate the “practice and spread of atheism and humanism,” in the predominantly Muslim parts of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.
The lawmakers noted that atheism and humanism are official “belief systems.” Accordingly, they wanted to know what other U.S. government programs fund the effort to “encourage, inculcate, or to disparage any official belief system – atheist, humanist, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise.”
“It is one thing for the Department to be tolerant and respectful of a wide range of belief systems, and to encourage governments to respect the religious freedom interests of their citizens,” they wrote. “It is quite another for the United States government to work actively to empower atheists, humanists, non-practicing, and non-affiliated in public decision-making.”
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“Any such program – for any religiously-identifiable group – in the United States would be unconstitutional,” the letter continued. “In addition to its constitutionally dubious legal foundation, we also question how such a grant or cooperative agreement program advances the foreign policy interests of the United States. Were such programs known by the citizens of the target countries, we would expect that local populations, interest groups, and governments would bristle at what any ‘objective observer’ would see as ‘covert’ funding from a foreign power designed to shatter local religious and cultural relationships.”
“This is not ‘religious freedom,’” they maintained.
Instead, it “prioritizes atheists and humanists above all other potential recipients,” they noted.
The Republicans likened it to the State Department building a missionary network in communist China.
“Obviously, this goal … would never pass constitutional muster and would be derided by radical leftist bureaucrats in your agency as completely out-of-bounds. So why is this atheist [initiative] not viewed with a similar objection? Americans rightly discern this as a part of the broader effort on the part of your administration to promote radical, progressive orthodoxy abroad.”
The lawmakers further pointed out that atheism is an “integral part” of Marxism and communism.
Accordingly, they want Blinken to explain who got the money, which countries they operate in, and how “deconstructing America’s reputation as a country of faith into one that promotes the negation of it improve our standing in the world.”
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In addition, they asked Blinken to share how promoting atheism in Muslim countries promotes U.S. values and interests, why Americans should support such an effort, and why State Department’s mission should include promoting “radical” organizations overseas.
They asked Blinken to respond by July 15.